Nov. 4, 2004
by Andre Bayard
Senior distance runner Angela Wishaar had a good summer.
She didn't go to the beach. She didn't take a vacation. She just ran ... and ran ... and ran.
Wishaar ran so much that when the summer ended, she simply kept going, right to the top of the list of Husky finishers at September's Sundodger Cross Country Invitational. Her team-best fifth-place effort marked a career-best for Wishaar, and was a 42-spot improvement over her finish at the same race a year before.
Those watching the race weren't the only ones surprised at Wishaar's sudden improvement.
'I thought since my training over the summer had been so much better than it had in the past, I would run a better race than I have ever ran before -- but I didn't think it would be that good,' she says with a bemused smile. 'I didn't know what I was doing. When I passed the other girls on our team, it was weird, because normally there are others in front of me, but this time there weren't. I didn't really know what to do.'
Maybe it's just that this whole cross country thing is new to Wishaar. While attending Shoreline's Shorewood High School, Wishaar played soccer and ran track, and had never toed the line in a cross country race before her sophomore year at Washington. While training with former UW All-American Courtney Inman, however, Wishaar came to realize how running cross country in the fall could improve her times on the track in the spring. Inman took Wishaar under her wing, and Wishaar is quick to credit Inman for helping her make the adjustment from high school to college.
'She was always encouraging me, and giving me advice on how to run faster,' Wishaar says. 'That meant a lot to me.'
Wishaar ran just once in that first cross country season, and just four times in 2003, only once placing among the Huskies top-seven finishers. Perhaps it is that fact which makes Wishaar's team-leading effort at the Sundodger meet all the more surprising. Since that run, Wishaar has run in UW's top-seven at every varsity competition in 2004, and is one of the team's key contributors entering next week's NCAA Regional Championships.
'I always felt I could be on varsity if I worked hard enough,' she says. 'The pressure comes from making myself good enough and having to compete with the top runners who are so fast, and so good.'
It remains to be seen if Wishaar's dramatic improvement in the fall translates to the track come spring, but if it does, she could be in for a big year, as she has already set the bar high. Wishaar ranked fourth on the squad at 1,500 meters last season, and earned a career-best 11th-place finish in the Pac-10 1,500-meter final.
It's likely not many of the other competitors in that 1,500-meter final can trace their track careers back to a simple desire for frozen snacks.
'In high school, I was just like, `Whatever, I'll do track.' I just wanted to hang out with my friends, have fun, run around a little bit, and go get slurpees after practice,'' she says.
Now a senior, Wishaar has traded slurpees for success, but credits everything she's achieved to her school, her coach, and her teammates.
'I really love this school,' she says. 'It's a beautiful campus, and there is such a variety of people and experiences. I also loved being a part of the cross country and track programs. It was a hard, but fun experience. Coach [Greg] Metcalf, too, is really enthusiastic, and encouraging. I'm glad I came here.'
A three-time Academic All-Pac-10 honoree, Wishaar hopes to turn the degree in Classics that she will earn in June (with an emphasis in Greek and Latin) into a career in law, or perhaps teaching.
Maybe she should go with teaching. That way, she'll still have the summer to run ... and run ... and run ... all the way to whatever goals she wants to achieve.